Once the calendar hits December of any year ending in a 9, it is time for the masses to declare the top 10 of whatever the previous 10 years provided us. I have seen numerous lists recounting the best of film, television, music, sports, etc. But, where is the New Jersey Net love? As always, Slippery When Nets is hear to provide a voice for the little man! And now, I embarrassingly present:
The Bottom 10 Nets Of The Zeros!
(Please note for this list, I am putting weight on the expectations associated with each player. Therefore, I will exclude second round picks and minimum contract players.)
10. Zoran Planinic
Wow, remember the 2003 NBA Draft? That will go down in history as one of the greatest drafts of all time. LeBron, Carmelo, Bosh, and Wade at the top. Tons of other starters litter the first and second round, including late picks David West, Josh Howard, and Mo Williams. And who did the Nets come away with?
Zoran was always a favorite of mine, but his international game just never adjusted to the NBA. It is terrible to look at all the other players that were passed up in favor of Little Z, especially considering this was the last s eason the Nets would be truly competitive for an NBA title. Well, it was nice knowing you, Zoran. I'll see you every four years in the Olympics, fighting for fifth place.
9. Marcus Williams
Really, he is the same story as Zoran: an heir-apparent to Jason Kidd, brought in when the team was competitive, ended up stinking up the joint. I ranked him higher than Zoran because, quite frankly, I just liked Zoran more. Marcus had a lot of hype surrounding him, as he "fell" in the draft because of character issues. These character issues were enormous, and have bugged him wherever he's gone. Fortunately, the Marcus Williams saga had some benefits, as he was traded for a conditional Golden State pick, which may end up being a good pick. Also, there have not (yet) been any All-Star caliber players selected after Williams.
8. Bobby Simmons
I had this guy at 10, but as this season just wears on, he will climb this chart. Clearly, he was only acquired to be a large expiring contract in 2010. However, now he will go down as the highest paid player on the worst team in NBA history. What a joke. How does he sleep at night? Probably like Reiner Wolfcastle: in a large bed, surrounded by beautiful women. He may skyrocket to number one if the Nets fail to acquire anything positive with their caproom this summer, which I feel is the most likely scenario. Single tear.
7. Sean Williams
Ah, SWat. My old nemesis. My hatred for you was one of the first things I've documented. And nothing's changed. The supposed "raw talent" is not enough to make up for his lack of fundamentals. It is a shame that you can describe tons of first round busts that way. GMs never learn.
6. Chris Childs
Well, I've ragged on all the draft busts of this decade, now time to rag on the horrific free agent signings. I will start with 2002's signing of Chris Childs. Supposed the backup point guard to help spell Jason Kidd, Childs showed up insanely overweight and was suspended by the team. In fact, one of the funniest moments I can remember was the nascent YES Network showing a "behind the scenes" in the Nets locker room. Peaking around the corner, they showed Chris Childs on a trainer's table - EATING A SANDWICH! Needless to say, he only played 12 games before getting the boot (his stay was so short, I could not find a good picture of him for this entry). Fortunately, steady Anthony Johnson was able to return back to the Nets.
Now, onto the top 5, or as I call them, the Malicious Ms
5. Jamaal Magloire
Basically, this was Chris Childs, part 2. This signing makes me angrier, however, since it was the THIRD strike by Nets management (Childs being number 1, and I will get to number 2 in a bit). As soon as they made this signing, I remember telling everyone who would listen, "Well, it would just be easier to light $4,000,000 on fire." But that's just stupid, nobody would do that. Except, perhaps, Ed Stefanski and Rod Thorn. This signing did have one upside, though. Defenders of the signing would always bring up "He was a former All-Star!" Yes, so was Chris Gatling, but nobody is reaching out to sign him. After this failure, though, I have yet to hear another casual basketball use this argument. Thanks, Jamaal!
4. Dikembe Mutumbo
Pat Riley used to speak of the "Disease of More" destroying basketball teams. Succinctly, once a team becomes successful, the players stop looking out for the greater good of the team, and start demanding more for themselves. They want more shots, more playing time, and ultimately, more money. However, what the 2002-03 Nets succumbed to was the "Disease of Mutumbo". In this disease, a competitive team thinks they can improve themselves by trading away role players for an aging veteran. This veteran does not mesh with the team's style at all, and everything falls apart. Examples include: 2000-01 Sixers (Ratliff and spare parts for Mutumbo), 2002-03 Nets (Van Horn and McCulloch for Mutumbo), and the 2007-08 Suns (Marion for Shaq).
Anyway, Mutumbo never meshed with the Nets, got injured early, and eventually was bought out of his contract in the largest buy-out in NBA history. I still wonder what Van Horn's outside shooting would have done to bust up the Spurs' zone defense in the 2003 Finals.
3. Stephon Marbury
"All Alone 33" was mercifully only on the Nets for a brief period of time this decade. However, I never felt more hopeless as a fan than in the 1999-2000 season. The Nets had no young prospects, no real coach, no cap room, etc. At least with this current menagerie, you can look at youth and cap room as positive indicators. Not so when knuckleheads like Marbury and Kendall Gill are running the joint.
Once Marbury had left the building, Nets fans knew it was only going to get worse. I secretly delighted in watching him sabotage the Suns and the Knicks. I loved watching Knicks fans trying to talk themselves into Marbury in the 2004 season, knowing full well what craziness they were about to get into. I didn't bat an eye when "truck party" splashed across the New York Post's back page. Hell, I bet Marbury also led to Kevin Garnett's knee injury and the collapse of the 2009 Celtics. I'll just end this with a highlight real of Marbury's greatest hits.
2. Alonzo Mourning
Unlike the other horrific signings mentioned earlier (Childs, Magloire), I was very pumped when the Nets got Alonzo Mourning. Perhaps it was a by-product of my happiness about resigning Jason Kidd, which occurred the same day. But little did I know the crap-show that would unfold.
After Mourning joined the team, the Nets had a glut of big men. They knew this once signing him, but for some reason, Rod Thorn waited until just before the season to buy-out Dikembe Mutumbo (mentioned earlier). This ticked off Mourning, as they were both teammates at Georgetown. I did not like this either, as the Nets were always prone to injury, and depth soon disappeared quickly. I mentioned this in my woefully accurate preseason hype article. So the Nets eventually had to battled the 2003-04 season with just Jason Collins and Aaron Williams.
After the 2004 fire sale, Mourning continued to complain. And whine. And cry. Eventually, the Nets moved his ass to Toronto as part of the Vince Carter trade. He got bought out there, and since he did not have enough talent to win on his own, he decided to ride the coattails of the Miami Heat. Since he sucked hard, they didn't play him that much, allowing him time to take pot-shots at the Nets, accusing Lawrence Frank and Rod Thorn of trying to kill him. By 2006, however, Mourning and his new-found steroids....
(Hold on, just take a look. Before:)
Anyway, he won a ring in 2006, along with some other guys you will always associate as great team players and winners like Jason Williams and Antoine Walker. This Finals will always go down as one of the shadiest series, as the refereeing has been constantly called into question. He would continue to show his class by taunting Nets fans at games in New Jersey the following season. Eventually, he destroyed his knee and had to retire. Good for him. Here's a Mourning highlight reel to end this:
1. Jeff McInnis
Has any player more appropriately worn the number 0? Jeff McInnis was strike 2 in the "Let's find a backup point guard for Kidd" idea. And, the Nets clearly did not learn their lessons from the first time with Chris Childs. So they failed with an aging, selfish point guard - and decided to sign an aging, selfish point guard for MORE money and MORE years? That, my friends, is what pushes this to number 1. Many of the previous mistakes (Magloire, Mutumbo, Childs) were resolved within a year. The McInnis drama dragged out for two excruciating years. Off the court, it hurt not only because of the roster spot, but the money pushed the Nets dangerously close to the luxury tax. On the court and in the locker room, he made it crystal clear that his cancer reputation was not given to him frivolously, but dutifully earned.
On other Nets teams, McInnis wouldn't be so bad. Either the team was good enough to overcome this roster blunder (as the 2002-04 Nets did with Childs, Zoran, Mourning, and Mutumbo), or they weren't good enough for these blunders to even matter (the 2007-09 Nets with Simmons, Magloire, and the Williamses). But the 2005-07 Nets were so tantalizingly close to being very competitive - hitting the second round twice - that this gaping wound on the roster just grew and festered. After a year and a half, he was shipped out for Bernard Robinson (who?), who was eventually turned into David Wesley, who just flat-out never showed up and retired. Something I wish Jeff McInnis did.